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Back to School: The Next Step to Becoming an eLearning Expert

  • Reading time:5 mins read

Update: I did not, in fact, check in every few months like I promised.

It’s that time of year again (if you work in education anyway). Students are returning. Classes are starting. Here in the Midwest, we’ve got crisp fall mornings and dew on the ground. Syllabi are being doled out like (unwanted) candy, and expressions of eagerness and anticipation will soon be replaced by glazed eyes and existential dread. 

And for the first time in about a decade, I’m joining the crowd.

That’s right, after working as an Assistant Instructional Designer (ID) for the past couple of years, I’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and go back to school. I’ve learned a lot on the job, but there’s a lot of background knowledge, collaboration, and networking that can help me progress my career that I feel like I can only get through a graduate program.

Plus, I’ve always wanted my masters. Vain? Probably, but it is what it is.

My intent is to take you, our lovely Model eLearning reader, along for the ride. 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve found that a decent chunk of our readership is actually students—so I figured we might as well get an authorial perspective on that as well. 

Over the next couple of years, I’ll share what I’ve learned (not only in the field of ID, but tips for working professionals or others who are going back to school). I’ll discuss how I’ve managed to apply what I’m learning to current projects at work. I’ll talk about sleepless nights and deadlines. I’ll examine the Dreaded Thesis™. Maybe I’ll even do a Q&A at some point, and we can have a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of particular classes or programs.

The Particulars

  • Who: Me, Dave Zokvic, an Assistant ID at Spring Arbor University
  • What: MSed ¬— Educational Design and Technology
  • Where: Concordia University – Wisconsin (Online)
  • When: Now (Expected Completion, 2021)
  • How: Supported by grit, prayer, and gallons of Code Red Mountain Dew

Finding the Right Graduate Program

I spent a lot of time searching for the program that was the right fit. I looked at online, traditional face-to-face, and blended programs from all over the country. I wanted three things:

  • A practical, portfolio-based program. This was probably the most important piece for me. My current portfolio is slim, and my current role doesn’t offer me an abundance of opportunities to expand it. 
  • At least one or two courses related to educational game design. Remember my posts about applying game design principles to your courses? Yeah, I almost forgot about them too. I explored a couple of programs with an official game design concentration, but they ended up being cost-prohibitive. 
  • A small, focused core with lots of elective flexibility. We all know that the variety of work that an ID does varies from day to day and role to role. I wanted the option (like most learners today) to customize my path. I found a good balance at Concordia, with 6 core courses and 5 electives. 

I was also encouraged by several talks with the program director before starting the program. The focus of our conversations was on Educational Design, rather than teaching specific tools or technology components. I’m confident in my ability to pick up and understand tech—what I need is a solid foundation of educational design theory and practice. 

Sharing the Graduate School Experience

So, as I start this journey, let me know if there’s anything you want to know about grad-student life. It can be about the program, how I apply it to practical work, struggles, new ideas, the disconnect between academic idealism and the cold, harsh reality of working with an LMS, or even just how the heck to time-manage a full-time grad program and full-time work. 

I’ll check in every few months or so with a progress report (provided, of course, I’m not staring at a wall mindlessly chanting a litany of educational theorists and wondering what I’ve done with my life).

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